FOXBOROUGH - Tom Brady can do whatever he wants on the bye week.
Brazil is nice this time of year.
Maybe Brady’s DVR is loaded with the new fall shows, and he’ll clear it out.
Heck, Brady can even go back to that water slide in Mexico and squeal all he wants.
After facing down defenses coordinated by members of the Ryan family in back-to-back weeks, Brady’s earned all the rest and relaxation he can muster away from Gillette Stadium.
No family makes him work harder. Nobody makes him grind it out like the Ryans.
Brady did it again yesterday in the Patriots’ 20-16 victory over the Cowboys.
Despite completing just 19 of 32 passes for 211 yards and one touchdown against two interceptions before the final drive, Brady rose to the occasion and delivered a victory.
“What they do is they make you earn every yard,’’ Brady said. “It’s not like there are a bunch of gimme throws out there or gimme routes or gimme calls from the sideline. There are a lot of different things and they have a lot of good players that can execute it. It’s a good defense and they really made us earn it today.’’
His two-week Tour de Ryan is over. They should give out a Ryan Award for beating twins Rex and Rob twice in a season. The trophy could have a potbelly and straggly long hair underneath a headset.
If Brady had his difficulties against Rex and the Jets - and he did, despite completing 72.7 percent of his passes - he climbed a mountain against Rob, who also vexed Brady when coordinating the Browns last season. That had been the last time the Patriots were held to fewer than 30 points.
The Cowboys are the Jets on steroids, with talent all over the field. Brady was sacked three times and knocked down at least another five.
And when you can make Brady channel his inner Tony Romo, like he did on a fourth-quarter interception to no one but Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee with 9:19 to play in a tie game, consider it a job well done.
Rob Ryan knew, from his time as a Patriots assistant, how best to foil Brady and the Patriots’ passing offense. Ryan was so confident in his plan that he sent his players on their bye week with neither film nor a game plan.
When they came back, the Cowboys set Ryan’s plan in motion.
What’s the plan? It’s not all that different than what other teams, especially the Jets, try to do:
Disguise your looks pre-snap: “We gave him a lot of different variations of our fronts and coverages in certain situations of the game,’’ said linebacker Keith Brookings. “Against a quarterback like that, if you just stand there and show him your hand pre-snap, he’s going to pick you apart. We talked about that all week. I feel like we did a pretty good job of that throughout the course of the game.’’ Brady’s 82.3 passer rating was his lowest since the Week 6 game against the Ravens last season.
Get Brady off his spot with as few rushers as possible: “He had to move the pocket a little bit more today instead of being able to stand back there and pick things a part,’’ said cornerback Frank Walker. “The guys up front put a lot of pressure on him with just a four-man rush. Making him move the pocket is big.’’ Brady posted a season-low 7.04 yards per attempt.
Hit the tight ends as much as possible, and then alternate double teams: “They’re some of the best tight ends in the league,’’ Lee said. “Big, run well, they’re quick. We tried hitting them, we tried doubling them in certain situations. But they did a good job of getting open. We knew it was going to be a tough task.’’ Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski combined for 15 receptions, 142 yards, and a touchdown.
Finally, try to bottle up Wes Welker: “I knew it was going to be a challenge, and he’s not one of those guys that you can just watch film and know what he’s going to run because all of his routes have a second option between him and Tom,’’ said cornerback Orlando Scandrick, who drew Welker most of the day and held him to 45 yards and a touchdown on six receptions. “He’s good at absorbing contact, pushing off, going opposite ways, I mean, he’s smart. I won a lot of battles. I won more than I lost.’’
The emergence of Scandrick, who had missed the previous three games with a high ankle sprain, was the X factor. He’s one of the best-kept secrets in the league, but Scandrick gives the Cowboys a better chance against the Patriots than most teams.
“Obviously we know what Scandrick is,’’ Brookings said. “I think there are a lot of people out there that really don’t know him as a player and how great he can be and what he means to this defense. He’s a really sharp player, extremely intelligent, knows the game of football. Plays with great leverage in coverage and makes plays. He’s a special player and I think people will start realizing that eventually.’’
But still, Welker wouldn’t be denied, and had three catches on the final drive.
Opponents still don’t believe Welker should beat them, despite leading the league in catches and yards.
In the Cowboys locker room, safety Gerald Sensabaugh spent a good five minutes instructing Scandrick about how he should have covered Welker, insinuating that Welker can’t do this or that.
Scandrick basically gave him a look that said, “Why don’t you try next time?’’
“It was him vs. me a lot,’’ Scandrick said. “I followed him a lot and we battled. Holding, pushing, tugging. It was a battle. What makes it tougher is when they’re going no-huddle and sometimes he’s getting breaks and I’m not coming out, but I’m not going to make any excuses. They made more plays than us. They won the game. Tip my hat to them.’’
It certainly wasn’t easy.
“They are as good as there is in the NFL. Period,’’ said Patriots guard Brian Waters. “And I’m not trying to blow them up or anything like that. It’s just the truth.
“Without a shadow of a doubt they’ve got the type of athletes, they’ve got the type of versatility scheme-wise, they have a very creative defensive coordinator and you have to know you’re going to get as good as it gets in the NFL.’’
And it’s as good of a challenge as Brady is going to get, and he passed it again by coming through in the clutch.
So he should take it easy for a while. Brady’s earned it.Greg A. Bedard can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @gregabedard.